monarch butterfly chrysalises
Two chrysalises housing monarch pupa

Vermont Woods Studios Prepares Monarchs for Take-off

On a beautiful day straddling the line between August and September, we huddled on the deck of Vermont Woods Studios at our Stonehurst property. Five adults and two children all gazing in mirrored excitement at the progress of our monarch caterpillars as they forge their ways into butterfly-hood.

“I’m going to name him Jeff!” One of the young boys informed the group as Peggy Farabaugh, the CEO of Vermont Woods Studios and head caterpillar-rearer, gently scooped up two prized caterpillars and secured them safely in a jar for the boys to bring to their grandmother’s.

It has been two weeks since the arrival of the caterpillar babies (or larva) and already they are well on their way to adulthood. However, their transformation is far more magical than that of any other aging process. They came to us as tiny creatures no bigger than a grain of rice and have rapidly transformed into vibrant, two inched beauties that scuttle about their mesh hamper confinement eating milkweed and maturing with natural grace.

It is marvelous to watch the caterpillars inch their way to the top of the hamper and methodically suspend themselves upside down in a J shape. This is a signal to the world that the caterpillars are ready to enter the pupa or chrysalis stage of life. The caterpillars work tirelessly in this J-shape to molt their skin and transform their outer appearance into the grass green, gold speckled chrysalis.

“I wonder what they’re doing in there all the time.” Peggy mused, affectionately grooming the caterpillar habitat. The allure of mystery gripped us all as we watched the beautiful chrysalises hang, cautiously enveloping the transforming caterpillar.

In about two weeks the chrysalises will have turned black and the monarch butterfly will be ready to emerge with damp, fledgling wings. In the short span of two hours, the monarch’s wings will dry and it will be lusting for flight. Thus our babies will leave us and safety of the Stonehurst deck.

However, it won’t be a sad day, for on this day we will have reached our goal. With the help of Orley R.  “Chip” Taylor, founder of the Monarch Watch program at the University of Kansas, we will have completed cycle one of the Monarch Restoration project. The Vermont Woods Studios company developed an objective: to help restore the monarch population. Success is heavily contingent on three pillars: milkweed restoration, healthy, migration-ready monarchs and continued research.

Last October and November, Peggy and the Vermont Woods Studios staff went out in search of milkweed. Pods gathered along route 142 were brought back to the studio where seeds were harvested and packaged for distribution.

Seeds were distributed to local gardeners and nature enthusiasts, clients and planted on the Stonehurst property. 1 in 100 milkweed seeds strewn across the earth will produce a plant. Because of these small odds, we chose to carefully plant 80 seeds on the Stonehurst property yielding 80 viable milkweed plants.

Along with learning the importance of carefully planting the milkweed seeds, the Vermont Woods Studios staff have also developed important information for rearing monarch caterpillars:

  • Whenever it is possible, raise the caterpillars in a terrarium
  • Do not allow direct sunlight to hit the terrarium
  • Monarch caterpillars grow quickly and this process can be messy, so cleaning the terrarium frequently is a must
monarch caterpillar on milkweed
One of our monarch caterpillars getting ready to transition into a chrysalis

Once our monarchs are ready for flight, we have one last piece of the puzzle to put in place before we can call the project a success. Chip founded Monarch Watch in 1992 and has been studying monarch migration since 2005. The eastern monarchs born at the end of the summer months have the innate task of migrating to Mexico. This migration will take four generations of monarchs.

Our Stonehurst monarchs will fly just a portion of the way and then stop to lay eggs and die as the new babies begin the growing process and mature to fly their portion of the trip. This process will repeat until the final generation sails over sunny Mexico and makes themselves comfortable for eight to nine months when the United States is again habitable for the return of the monarchs.

How did people come to have such intimate detail about the migration pattern of these tireless creatures? The answer to this is evolving through research, which brings us to the final stage of the project: tagging the monarchs.

Before our monarchs take flight, we will place a small, adhesive tag, provided by Chip and his team on the wings of our monarchs. These tags will signal researchers to know where the monarchs came from and provide other valuable research that will continue to help rehabilitate the monarch population.

As we stand on the deck, without a chill in the air and watch the chrysalises form, we know the journey our caterpillars have before them. We discuss tagging the butterflies with nervous laughter, none of us having ever done it before; but were willing to try because we know that it is one key step in encouraging the comeback of these magical creatures.

(This is part two of a four part blog series on our Monarch Butterfly Restoration Project)

This blog is written by your friends at Vermont Woods Studios. Check out our Vermont made furniture and home decor online and visit our showroom and art gallery at Stonehurst, the newly restored 1800s farmhouse nestled in the foothills of the Green Mountains.

Strolling of the Heifers

All dressed up for Mardi Gras! 

Strolling of the Heifers Weekend

They came. They strolled. And they looked fabulous. This weekend, a few members of the Green Team represented VWS at the Strolling of the Heifers parade. This being my first “stroll”, I was excited to see what sights and antics Brattleboro had in store.

The parade featured floats and displays from local businesses and organizations from around southeastern Vermont. Each one had a unique theme that tied into the agricultural theme of the event. One of my favorite ideas was from Edward Jones Investments with the slogan “How’s Your Nest Egg Doing?” with a float that was decorated with some live chickens and eggs. There was also a float for an organization that is near and dear to my heart: a local FFA chapter. And of course, there were plenty of heifers. Their handlers dressed each heifer in beads, flowers and bright colors to match this years Strolling of the Heifers theme, “Running of the Bulls meets Mardi Gras.”

Strolling of the Heifers

Representing the FFA! I walked in many parades and shows as a member, but never in a cow suit!

After the parade was over, the crowd all flooded to The Common to scored some “Strolling Swag” and free gifts from more local businesses. One exhibit in the event was the Woodlands exhibit, which we were a part of. Groups offered educational exhibits and demonstrations about forestry, logging, conservation, invasive species and, of course, the final product of effective forest harvesting, furniture. Vermont Woods Studios shared a tent with Wood-Net, represented by woodworker Rick Gravelin. We showcased our sustainable outdoor POLYWOOD furniture, while Rick displayed a beautiful assortment of handmade, wooden clocks and watches. Michelle, Peggy and I had so much fun talking with local residents about our furniture and where it comes from and boasting about our new Vernon showroom. Michelle even got to talk about our solid wood dining furniture with Peter Welch, a Vermont Congressman.

Did you attend the Stroll this weekend? Or does your town have a local agricultural fair you enjoy? Tell us about it here or on our Facebook wall!

Strolling of the Heifers

Every year, the stroll has special “sweepers” that follow the end of the parade to clean up 
the inevitable messes that heifers make. I thought it would be fitting for 
the sweepers to follow this blog too. :)




This blog is written by your friends at Vermont Woods Studios. Check out our Vermont made furniture and home decor online and visit our showroom and art gallery at Stonehurst, the newly restored 1800s farmhouse nestled in the foothills of the Green Mountains.

Tiger-conservation I'm trying not to feel too wounded.  We got a call from World Wildlife Fund WWF today.  I've been a contributing member and ardent promoter of their work since I graduated from college and got my first full time job in 1980.  After 31 years of enthusiastic support, they called me today to tell me that I'm not allowed to mention their name on my Vermont Woods Studios Furniture website anymore.

See… we recently launched a Save the Tiger campaign to raise awareness of the fact that all species of tigers are endangered and some are on the brink of extinction.  Their habitat is being destroyed and to some extent it's because corrupt timber conglomerates are clear-cutting the forests they live in and using the wood for cheap imported furniture and flooring that's sold in the US and Europe.  We oppose that and so does WWF.  We support their Save the Tiger fund and we encourage furniture shoppers to buy American furniture made from sustainably harvested American wood.

Well I guess they don't like their name being connected to a commercial venture.  I understand their concern about the fact that there are dirt ball websites out there that might use their name dishonestly, but really.  I asked WWF to spend 5 minutes on our website and tell me we're one of those guys.  They agreed that our committment to conservation seems genuine but then noted that in order to be considered WWF partners and refer to them on your website, a minimum "6 figure donation" is required annually along with a long list of other things.  Actually, I think we would be OK with the other requirements but $100,000 is equal to 1/6 of our total revenue (not profits) last year.  So now I have to face the fact that I've been summarily rejected by my all time favorite charity– an organization that had a profound influence on the whole concept defining Vermont Woods Studios Furniture.  How sad is that?

I'm going to finish crying in my beer tonight.  Tomorrow I'll be over it and moved on to other issues.  But tonight I can't help feeling a bit jaded about WWF and their corporate partnership program.  What do you think?

This blog is written by your friends at Vermont Woods Studios. Check out our Vermont made furniture and home decor online and visit our showroom and art gallery at Stonehurst, the newly restored 1800s farmhouse nestled in the foothills of the Green Mountains.

Bedroom-furniture We've been busy lately at Vermont Woods Studios Furniture— finally moving into our new showroom in Vernon, Vermont.  Yeah!!!  It's taken over a year to recover from the fire last Christmas Eve that took our wonderful friend Annette's home and farm– and along with it– our showroom. 

But Douglas and Rebecca have been working the last few weekends– moving all or our electronics and office systems to our new space.  Ken and the boys helped move new desks and bookshelves in.  This week we hope to wrap up much of the process by moving our first shipment of furniture.

The new office and showroom is located next to the Post Office in Vernon, Vermont at 2531 Fort Bridgman Rd Vernon, VT.  Drop by and see us!


This blog is written by your friends at Vermont Woods Studios. Check out our Vermont made furniture and home decor online and visit our showroom and art gallery at Stonehurst, the newly restored 1800s farmhouse nestled in the foothills of the Green Mountains.

Solid-cherry-wood-bedroom Furniture made of solid cherry wood is considered some of the finest furniture available in the world today.  That’s because cherry is a beautiful, stable hardwood that develops a rich reddish brown patina over the years and just keeps getting more gorgeous as time goes by.

I’m always saddened when customers tell us they’ve been searching in their local areas and online for solid cherry furniture and they haven’t been able to find the real thing.

What’s happened is that the larger furniture companies have opted for low-price over quality in their furniture designs.  They typically use cheaper, lower quality woods, stain them and then call them “cherry”.  The worst part is that the stains don’t even remotely look like real cherry wood, but this cheap furniture is so plentiful that people often think that stain is the actual color of cherry.  At Vermont Woods Studios Furniture it breaks our craftsmans’ hearts when people ask them to stain solid cherry furniture to make it match existing fake “cherry” furniture that’s in their homes.

Solid-cherry-wood bookcase Here are some examples of solid cherry wood furniture.  You’ll notice there are varying degrees of color.  Natural cherry wood starts out a light pinkish color and darkens over time with exposure to light.  Eventually it ripens to a stunning reddish brown.  You can hasten the darkening process by oiling the wood often.

If you’re shopping for cherry furniture and you have any doubts about the wood, be sure to ask the salesperson if it’s authentic cherry wood.  Ask where it’s from too.  The best cherry in the world is grown in Pennsylvania and West Virginia and because we don’t have much cherry in Vermont, that’s where we get ours from.  More on cherry wood furniture here.


This blog is written by your friends at Vermont Woods Studios. Check out our Vermont made furniture and home decor online and visit our showroom and art gallery at Stonehurst, the newly restored 1800s farmhouse nestled in the foothills of the Green Mountains.